A forum prompted by the Christian Peacemakers Teams’ weeklong delegation against depleted uranium usage at Aerojet Ordnance was held at East Tennessee State University Tuesday.
Several individuals spoke out against DU and the harmful side effects suffered by those who come in contact with it. There also was talk about the soil and water samples released by CPT earlier this week, which showed traces of DU in Limestone Creek downstream of Aerojet Ordnance, as well as in the soil of non-residential and residential areas near the facility.
The CPT is planning an occupation of Aerojet, 1367 Old State Route 34, on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m.
“It can pierce the armor on tanks and take out underground bunkers, but it doesn’t treat the human body very nicely and that’s its handicap,” said Cliff Kindy, coordinator for the CPT depleted uranium campaign. “If anything’s going to change in Iraq, we’ve got to do the work here. What would it take to stop the production of depleted uranium weapons?”
Gathering support while educating others about DU was part of the forum’s focus. Ann Harris, executive director of whistleblower support group We The People, discussed the complex stages involved before DU munitions can be made.
“When they (the military) eject depleted uranium out of any Abrams tank or out of any facility, 70 percent of it goes into a big cloud of dust and you’re breathing it in.”
Another speaker, John Paul Hasko, said contact with DU has taken the life of at least one of his former co-workers at Aerojet. With the health of locals, especially children, on his mind, Hasko called for Aerojet to pay for an epidemiological study of the graduating classes of David Crockett High School from 1977 to 1997.
“Do you know what the real problem is with DU? We humans don’t have a four and a half billion year half life, we only have this life to make it right for the children,” Hasko said.
During Kindy’s talk, he mentioned that Aerojet was invited to the Uranium Weapons Production in Our Own Backyard forum, but didn’t not attend.
“Why wouldn’t they talk about what they’re doing?” he said. “If they’re selling a good product, certainly the community would be happy to know what they’re doing.”
Retired Army Maj. Doug Rokke was originally scheduled as the keynote speaker, but severe health issues kept him from making the trip from Illinois. He served as the former director of the Army’s DU project and says interaction with it has given him upper respiratory problems, cataracts, fibromyalgia and osteoporosis.
Robbie and Somer Seaton of Afton attended the forum in order to learn more about DU and possibly join the CPT and its delegation against Aerojet. Since their 9-year-old son Memphis died of an adult brain tumor five months ago, the couple is searching to figure out why he developed the tumor as well as why Robbie’s father suffered lung cancer and why many of their livestock and pets have developed cancer.
“Our whole cause is to find answers and protect other children,” Somer said. “And so everything we went through wasn’t in vain.”
At the occupation of Aerojet on Saturday, the CPT will look at alternatives for the facility and listen to stories from veterans.
“I think we need to begin to put this together and to understand it in ways that we don’t at this point,” Kindy said. “You’re going to be the people that make those changes, it’s not going to happen without you.”